Merry Little Christmas | A Story

Ever since Emily Chapman and I wrote Ain't We Got Fun, we've been wanting to collaborate on another project. We got quite a few comments from our readers asking if we were going to write another story together, but between our crazy life schedules we haven't had time ... until this December. Emily and I are pleased to announce our new series called Merry Little Christmas featuring all new characters! The story is set in the winter of 1943. Go ahead and fangirl. I won't judge.

Penny Harper and Juliet Moretti come from very different backgrounds. An orphaned New Yorker and a daughter of a large, boisterous Italian family don't exactly have loads in common. But despite their stark differences, they're knitted together in spirit by the marriage of their siblings.

Living in 1943 isn't easy during the holiday season, but somehow these girls manage to have a merry little Christmas after all.

We'll be alternating character letters on our blogs like we did with Ain't We Got Fun. Starting Monday December 12thEmily will post her character's letter (Penny) on her blog. On December 13th, I'll post my character's letter (Juliet) here, etc. The story runs through Christmas. It's our Christmas gift to all our wonderful readers!

Want to get a taste for the story? Check out our Storyboard!

Ya'll excited?! I know I am! 


"Sweet Remembrance" Book Trailer

I remember The Little Match Girl being such a tragic tale, but somehow sweet—bittersweet. That’s how this WWII retelling of the story was. I don’t like tragedies, but if you’re going to write one, write it like Emily Ann Putzke did with "Sweet Remembrance." It was captivating. The history of the Jews being brutally persecuted by Germans is hard—the kind of hard where the enormity of it steals the breath from your lungs for a moment. The lost dreams so bitter. But the remembering of a heartfelt romance so sweet. All in all, it’s a sad tale of a horrific time in history … but it ends with a curious kind of hope. A hope that I want to hold onto. Very well written. A bittersweet, heart-tugging story of an ordinary girl in a terrible time. Shantelle Mary Hannu

Sweet Remembrance is my contribution to Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales. The boxset is available on Kindle for $4.99. Grab a copy and let us know what you think by leaving a review on Amazon and Goodreads!


"ONCE" Is Now Available!

Break out the confetti! Today's the day! Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales is now available on Amazon! It's been quite an adventure to collaborate with Suzannah Rowntree, Elisabeth Grace Foley, Rachel Heffington, J.Grace Pennington, and Hayden Wand. I've learned a lot through working with these authors and I'm so excited for you all to read our boxset!

To give you a taste of the collection, we're each sharing an excerpt from our retellings today. So without further ado, a snippet Sweet Remembrance, my WWII retelling of The Little Match Girl.

I soaked in every detail—the polished floors, the feel of lush fur coats against my arm as ladies brushed past me, the smell of cigar smoke that hung in the air, and the hazy, warm, elegant atmosphere that made my skin tingle with excitement. I followed Romek to our seats, my eyes drawn to the lights glimmering above us. A din of voices flooded the room.
“I’m sorry our seats are so far in the back,” he said.
“I don’t mind.” I really didn’t. I was bewitched by the sights and sounds. Even the seats felt like heaven. My body relaxed as I sank into the velvet cushion. I glanced over at Romek. He was staring at me with an amused grin.
“What?” I asked, blushing. He must have thought me silly to be so enthralled by something so natural to the rest of society.
“You’re refreshing.”
Unsure of his meaning, I ignored the statement and made one of my own instead. “Stop staring at me.”
“I’m not staring at you!” He quickly looked down at the program he was bending into a mangled-up fan.
“Yes, you were. It makes me nervous.” The lights began to dim. I scooted to the edge of my seat, hands clasped tightly in front of me.
“I wasn’t staring!” He lowered his voice to a defensive whisper. He just had to get the last word in.
“Shh! The concert’s starting.”
He fell back into his chair with a defeated sigh.


Be sure to read excerpts from the other retellings in this collection!

Mountain of the Wolf by Elisabeth Grace Foley
She But Sleepth by Rachel Heffington
Rumpled by J. Grace Pennington
Death Be Not Proud by Suzannah Rowntree
With Blossoms Gold by Hayden Wand

Grab a copy of Once:Six Historically Inspired Fairytales for $4.99 on Kindle! Please spread the word about our boxset using the hashtag #OnceFairyTales and adding Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales to your Goodreads shelf.


Black Friday Sale!

As I sit here drinking my coffee at nearly noon, I realize I'm kinda behind on this whole Black Friday thing. I like sleeping in. And coffee. But fear not, because you have all weekend to get the eBook and paperback copy of Ain't We Got Fun on sale! If you haven't read the story yet, here's the perfect time to grab a copy. If you have read it, well ... Christmas is just around the corner and I'll bet you have some book lovers on your Christmas list!

eBook: $0.99 
Paperback: $7.99
(Use the code JY7C6V68 on

Ain't We Got Fun
By Emily Chapman and Emily Ann Putzke 

It was never much of an issue for Bess: living contentedly on her family's farm, despite the Depression which loomed around them. But when her older sister Georgiana takes off to New York City to make a fortune and help Papa out, feelings of adventure and wanderlust strike Bess at home. Through their lively letter correspondence, the sisters recount to one another their adventures, surprises, and heartaches, leaving little room for depression. For in a world of such wonder, ain't we got fun?



"We Stand Alone Together."

“The paratroopers were all volunteer. The elite of the Army. If you're going to combat, you want to fight with the best.” ― William Guarnere

If you know me, you probably realize that I have an infatuation with anything Airborne related during WWII. These kids jumped out of perfectly good planes and landed behind enemy lines while anti-aircraft was shooting at them. That takes some guts, man.

I stayed home and watched the first few episodes of Band of Brothers when my sister went to see Cinderella in theaters. Do I have a problem? Yeah, probably. =) 

Part of what got me interested in the 101st Airborne was meeting Tony Zanzinger who fought with the 501st PIR. It was really cool because I actually had a copy of Band of Brothers with me on that trip, and I got to meet a real paratrooper from the same division! And he gave me a copy of the Christmas card he sent to his mother! Then play the main theme from Band of Brothers and I'm done, guys. DONE. ALL THE FEELS.

All that to say, I recently finished reading Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends which is about two paratroopers who fought with Company E, 506th PIR101st Airborne during WWII. Yup. My kind of book right there, folks.

I've seen other reviews that said, "It was like sitting in the living room and listening to your grandpa tell stories." I have to agree with them. Probably because this sounds like something my grandpa would say:

“We were supposed to count to ten and then the chute would open, but I never counted, never met a guy that did. One guy said: 'I say a Hail Mary, what the hell is counting gonna do?!”  Edward Heffron

The intimate writing style of the book makes you become attached to these guys—William "Wild Bill" Gaurnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron. They grew up only a few blocks away from each other in South Philly, and didn't meet until they were sent overseas.

This book, told back and forth between Babe and Wild Bill, gives a gripping account of training in Camp Toccoa, Bill's first combat jump into Normandy, Babe's first combat jump during Operation Market-Garden, the living hell of Bastogne, the liberation of a concentration camp, and the capture of Hitler's Eagle Nest. It also tells what they did after the war, and about the making of Band of Brothers. I had no idea that the actors couldn't use their real names for an entire year! It had to be, "Hey, Heffron," and "Hey, Bill." They had to go through basic training and sleep in foxholes. That's dedication! Babe wore his rosary and scapular during the entire war so, Robin Laing, the guy who portrayed him in the film, did the same thing. Babe ended up giving Robin his scapular. I thought that was so cool!

"Soldiers of the Regiment! Tonight is the night of nights. Today, as you read this, you are en route to the great adventure for which you have trained for over two years."

"So that's why they gave us ice cream?!" — Wild Bill

“What was strange was when Frank Hughes or the other actors would talk to Robin Laing, and he'd say, 'Hey, Babe,' or 'Hey, Heffron.' It made me stop and look around.” ― Edward Heffron

The company was trained at Camp Toccoa by Captain Sobel. A strong hate for the man quickly formed a bond between them. Easy Company was the only company that stayed together from training to combat. They really were a band of brothers.

“We knew each other's next move, we trusted each other, it went right back to that bond. You'd give up your life for the man beside you. That's when boys became men.” ― William Guarnere

(I don't really like spaghetti, but now I really don't like spaghetti.)

 “Every day for six months, all we wanted was to get those silver parachute wings. You put on your wings and you bloused your boots up. That was it. Everyone knew you were the best of the best. You were different from any other soldier. Those wings made you different, and you never took them off.” 
― William Guarnere

The D-Day chapter really got to me. I just can't fathom what these guys went through. Bill found out that his brother was killed in Italy right before the D-Day jump. That's why the chapter was named Wild Bill's Revenge.

And yet, Bill was ready to do it all over again!

"They took us into the editing room and showed us some footage of our D-day drop. Planes all over the sky, paratroopers coming down in the dark. My first combat jump. I'll never forget it. Adrenaline pumping, going into the unknown. That scene made me want to relive that jump in the worst way. Those dirty sons of beetles.” ― William Guarnere

Another chapter that really affected me was Bastogne. 

When the Germans broke through and created the bulge and surrounded us, they identified the 101st Airborne as the ones surrounded. They though we were goners, I guess, so it was news. The 101st is surrounded! That's not news for a paratrooper.” ― William Guarnere

Reading about the deaths of Muck and Penkala  ... I have no words, just great respect for these men who endured the unimaginable. Bastogne is where Bill lost his leg when he was trying to save his friend, Joe Toye. Also, reading about Babe and Bill going back to the Bois Jacques woods years later ... guys, I just don't have words. With winter settling into NY, (and staying for a good five months) I'm going to think of Bastogne and remember that I have nothing to complain about.

"In Bastogne, your tears would freeze.” ― William Guarnere

“Each soldier has his own personal thoughts about what he experienced there. You think of what happened there, who was where, who got hit, who died where, you look for foxholes. Some of them are graves of our buddies. You barely survived there. No place has the same charge as Bastogne. It looks like it did in 1944. The woods are there, the foxholes are there. The place is eerie.” ― William Guarnere

“When shells were flying over your head, and you didn't know where they would land, you started making promises to the man upstairs. I said, 'God, if you get me out of this place alive, I'll do whatever you want.' I did that probably a million times. 'Get me out of here, Lord, and I'll do this or that.' You make all kinds of promises. We had a guy named Matson, he prayed if he got out he was going to become a priest. He become a priest as soon as the war was over, made up for all us scallywags that didn't keep our promises.” ― William Guarnere

"It was snowing, and Father Maloney gave us a pep talk. 'You're heroes. It's a pleasure to be your spiritual guide, and I'm proud to be part of the 506th.' He used the hood of the jeep as an altar, and we knelt in the snow to get communion.” ― Edward Heffron

“At about two or three in the morning, we boarded the trucks. All we had were our regular fatigue clothes on, we had no combat gear, no winter gear, no winter underwear; they sent us up as we were. No supplies, no ammo.” ― Edward Heffron

I think that chapter had the biggest impact on me.

There are some quotes that just make me want to cry.

“As I walked on our old training field, the strangest thing happened. I could hear plain as day the men counting cadence, double-timing, rifle bolts being pulled back, the guys shouting and kidding each other.” ― Edward Heffron

“When I think about the war, I don't think about the battle, I think about the men. I look at an American flag today, and I see the faces of men I fought with, the ones who lived and the ones who died.” ― William Guarnere

Thankfully, there are many light moments that had me laughing!

"Bill was good to my daughter while I was sick. I was lying in a hospital bed for almost a year, and the doctors didn't expect me to walk again. Bill took care of us. He came to see me every day.— Edward Heffron  (Bill adds: 'You owe me for parking. Sixteen dollars a day for a year! He was on so many drugs, he was nuttier than a fruitcake. Coco loco!”)

"If there was pain, I didn't feel it. That's my nature. If I get a headache, I bang my head against the wall, curse somebody, and it goes away bing-bang-boom! I just ignore it.” ― William Guarnere

“If you ever hear Bill's sayings, he copies them from me. If you offer him something to eat, he says, 'No thanks, I just had a peanut.' Well, he got that from me. It's supposed to be funny, but he says it constantly, so it gets on my nerves. Bill says, 'I'm sorry you ever told me that one.” —Edward Heffron

Although both of these men were incredibly courageous in battle, they don't consider themselves heroes.

“The heroes are the kids who gave 100 percent; they gave their lives. The heroes are the mothers who gave up a son, who carried him for nine months, and raised him to do right, and he does right, and at eighteen, he goes to fight for his country, and he dies doing right. That's a hero.”—Edward Heffron

“I put my hand on Bill's shoulder and told him, yeah the sacrifice was worth it. He said, 'Yeah, I think so, too.'” ― Edward Heffron

I give four out of five stars to this book, and a hearty cheer of "Currahee!" to these brave men who fought for freedom.

(Just a warning: I gave this four stars because there is a lot of swearing in this book, lots of drinking and some inappropriate behavior when they were on leave.)

Have you ever read Brothers In Battle, Best of Friends?


P.S. I just needed an excuse to put this picture in. SO CUTE.

Snippets of Sweet Remembrance

I stepped aside, nearly tripping over the curb, as a squadron of German soldiers marched past. The sunlight reflected off their helmets. They were so close I could have touched the eagle emblem on their field-grey jackets.

“You stupid Jew.” His deep voice slices through the air. “You know I could kill you for this.” He takes a step forward, his gear rattling against itself.

Benson checks the alley before stepping in closer. “They’re gone, Kasia. Everyone in our cell of the resistance is gone.”
I feel nothing anymore. “We knew we wouldn’t win. We knew we’d lose our friends in the fight.”
“But knowing feels so different than the reality of it all.” Benson exhales a long breath. “You and I are the only ones left.”

Romek slowed his strides to match mine as we meandered down the sidewalk, trying to drag the night on for as long as we could.  I stayed close to his side, and he seemed to like that, for he inched a bit closer too.

Each note swelled with passion and despair, fear and joy. I lost myself in the melody, closing my eyes to the cruel world outside those walls, closing my ears to the sound of jackboots against pavement. My soul and fingers were in rhythm, sparking pieces of my heart into the evening air. As I lifted my fingers from the final note, I opened my eyes to find Romek staring at me with such wonder and admiration that it sent my heart beating wildly.

Copies of Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairy Tales have been sent to our advance readers this morning! Things are happening fast, people. On December 2nd, you'll be able to pick up your own ebook copy of the collection on Amazon!


Veterans Day 2016

This Veterans Day was really meaningful and wonderful. Not only did I get to dress up in 40's clothing and attend a USO show, but I got to hold the hand of a veteran who stormed Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944. I'm so grateful for the opportunities I've had to meet WWII veterans! They are truly the Greatest Generation. 

Before the USO show, I went to a "Citizen Soldiers" talk by Steve Appleby at the Eldred WWII museum.

Two of the Andrew Sisters getting ready for the show ...

I was wearing 2 inch heels and still wasn't as tall as my little sister ... 

Steve Appleby of the Eldred WWII Museum ... 

Robert Graham served in WWII and Korea! 

"Don't sit under the apple tree, with anyone else but me ..."

The highlight of the evening was talking with Elmer De Lucia. He was in five major battles; Normandy, Northern France, Battle of the Bulge, Rhineland, and Central Europe. Elmer stormed Omaha Beach on his twentieth birthday and lost many of his good friends and his brother in the war. I held his hand and he sang "You'll Never Walk Alone." 

This is a picture of Elmer during the war. Quite a handsome kid, don't you think? =)

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all our veterans!